PV Sindhu ends long wait, resumes training at Pullela Gopichand academy
India’s elite badminton players began practice sessions on Friday after over four months, due to the Covid-19 crisis.Updated: Aug 07, 2020 19:19 IST
World badminton champion, PV Sindhu, had her first full training session for four-and-half months on Friday, ending a frustrating wait following the nationwide lockdown due to Covid-19 and the ban on training for the nation’s elite athletes.
Sindhu, 25, who won the world title at Basel last year but painted, cooked and baked during the forced break, trained at the Hyderabad academy of chief national coach, Pullela Gopichand, following the Telangana government’s green signal for stadiums and academies to reopen on August 5.
The form and preparation of Indian badminton players is crucial as they aim to win a medal for the third Olympics in a row, following Sindhu’s silver at the 2016 Rio Games, and Saina Nehwal’s bronze at London in 2012.
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International competition was halted in March due to the pandemic, and the Badminton World Federation (BWF) has postponed plans for resumption in September. The Thomas and Uber Cup, to be played in Aarhus, Denmark from October 3 to 11, is expected to be the first event.
Gopichand and India’s Korean trainer, Park Tae-sang, supervised the training session in Hyderabad with Sindhu’s father, PV Ramana, a former volleyball international, also present.
“Sindhu trained from 6.00am to 8.30am following all social distancing and sanitising protocols,” Ramana said over phone from Hyderabad. Sindhu began her fitness and workout sessions on Wednesday, under trainer M Srikanth Verma. “She will do on-court practice at Gopi’s academy in the morning and a couple of hours of physical training at the Suchitra Academy in the evening,” he said.
World Championships bronze medallist B Sai Praneeth and doubles exponent N Sikki Reddy trained, after Sindhu finished, with sparring partners. Gopi, foreign coaches and a physio supervised.
“I trained for an hour. It felt good after so long. I’ll have a light session tomorrow and properly start from Monday. I also spoke to new Indonesian coach Agus Dwi Santoso who said we’ll slowly progress,” Sai Praneeth said. “I and Sikki practised at the same time but on different courts. She was training with doubles coaches.”
To start with, Sports Authority of India (SAI) has selected only eight Olympic probables for training—Sindhu, Praneeth, Reddy, Nehwal, Kidambi Srikanth, Ashwini Ponnappa, Chirag Shetty and his doubles partner Satwiksairaj Rankireddy.
Only four are based in Hyderabad. Three are training at the Gopichand’s academy while former world No.1 Nehwal is training with husband Parupalli Kashyap, the former Commonwealth Games champion, and RMV Gurusaidutt at a different centre.
“Four-five of us, including some juniors, have been training together for a couple of weeks,” said Kashyap. “Saina has just started. She’ll probably join (Gopi’s camp) when she gets fitter. She had a chat with the new Indonesian coach Agus.”
Srikanth (in Guntur), Rankireddy (Amalapuram), Ponnappa (Bengaluru) and Shetty (Mumbai) are in their hometowns. Srikanth, Kashyap said, might join the camp at the weekend while the others may wait as they are concerned about travel, quarantine and accommodation.
Shetty said: “I’ll see for the next two weeks how things are and then decide. We’ve discussed with our coaches and they’ve said it’s our decision.”
The academy hostel remains shut though Shetty and Rankireddy, the world No.10 doubles pair, have been told they will be accommodated if they join training. “We’ll be the only ones at the academy. There won’t be anything else to do. We’ll have to stay indoors most of the time. Food and all will also be an issue,” said Shetty, 23. “Even if we start, our training will be a lot less because it’ll only be the two of us. You can’t play for long hours with just two, you need 8-10 players.”
Rankireddy, 19, said: “My parents are worried as the pandemic situation is not good in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.”
World Championship women’s doubles bronze medallist Ponnappa is training at Bengaluru’s Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy (PPBA). She is unlikely to head to Hyderabad soon. “The main aspect is you should be active, do your workouts. Ashwini will continue here till there is more clarity. We have many players and coaches here and she has been actively training for the last two months,” said PPBA head coach U. Vimal Kumar.
Resuming training will give the players sufficient time to get back to shape for the Thomas and Uber Cup team competitions. “This will give everyone an opportunity to be in shape. By mid-September we need to finalise our teams for Denmark. I was looking at the draw and saw we have a good chance, can really do well,” said Kumar, a former national coach.